What’s Wrong With You? Making Fun of Cosplay

As New York Comic Con approaches, it brings to mind one thing, thanks to years of conditioning, and that is: cosplayers. That’s the technical term for the folks who like to dress themselves up and have a couple days of pretend time. Costumes are to comic con news reports as “Bif Bam Pow” is to comic book newspaper headlines. Any local or national news story about a comic convention invariably starts and ends with all those “crazy people in costumes”, and if they’re lucky, they’ll give a passing glance over at the actual comics, which the conventions are named for. For these local news teams, it’s all about the annual visit to the freak show, so the folks at home can get a good look at the weirdos who do things a little differently than they do.

That’s the general public. On the other side of things, there’s the people attending the show who aren’t dressed up. Having been to many shows, I can tell you who the first target is ridicule. Because like any microcosm, a hierarchy forms and we end up back in a form of high school where someone must be made to feel less than, and there are many, many jokes about the silly people in costume.

Of course, this makes some sense. These people in costume are easy targets. It’s so easy to pick on someone with ironic detachment for allowing themselves to look silly, and to put so much time, effort, and money into dressing like a fictional character.

On the other hand, the folks in costume? They’re the bravest and most interesting people there. Regardless of social convention or trying to be hip, they’re just following what they want to be doing most. They’re going to the one place in the entire world they can go and be themselves, mostly and ironically by being someone else. Every time I hear someone bagging on the dude in his 40s dressed as a Ghostbuster, I can’t help but think about the pair of cojones that guy has to throw on a jumpsuit and walk around in public, fully aware of the drubbing he’s taking behind his back. You know that he’s working in an office somewhere, and Jim, in the cubicle down the row can pull up a shot of him posing with his proton pack on Facebook, and he’s out there doing it anyway, because it makes him happy.

When we were kids, there was nothing better than playing dress up, and making believe. We could stick a towel in the back of our shirt or find a hat and a makeshift whip or anything that would remotely qualify as a lightsaber, and it was a path to true short term happiness. Now, outside of drunken Halloween parties, most of us are too grown up and detached for that.  But not the cosplayers. They can still find that joy.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s a little sad to see this already beleaguered subculture try to place itself above another one. What’s the point of that? The folks in costume probably make these huge conventions possible in truth. They attract the families and the kids. They have this spirit of the best parts of imagination and a loss of self consciousness that I totally respect, like people who can do karaoke without feeling self conscious. Every now and then you’ll see someone who really went all out, and regardless of the fact that they can take up a little more space, or the aisles get slowed down because people want pictures.

I’m of the mind to cut them some slack, because honestly, who are we to judge? You think you’re not wearing a costume out there? I am. I’m wearing a costume every time I go out there. I’m not trying to play someone from Star Wars as much as I’m trying to play the character I want to be. That tie you see me in at shows, those chucks I wear? It’s all the same thing. And a lot of the folks on the show floor are doing the same thing to some extent or another.

You don’t need to be into wearing a costume to understand why someone else would, and at the end of the day, being the cool guy at a comic-con seems like a silly thing, so why would anyone do it by knocking someone else down? Live and let live. We’re all nerds to someone, and honestly, fuck those guys.

What’s Wrong With You? is a regular opinion column, where I dissect something in comics culture. It’s all in the name of fun and discussion.


  1. Right on. I secretly wish I had the balls to dress up, just once. By the way, it’s “cojones.” “Cajones” means big boxes. Which, depending on the cosplay, could be what you meant.

  2. There are cosplayers, and then there are COSPLAYERS.

  3. I love cosplay. I’ve never done it, but I’m typically impressed by those that do. The highlight of Dragon*Con this year was easily the quality of the cosplay.

    • Every time I go to Dragon*Con, I regret not dressing. The group I go with invariably make plans to make costumes for the next year but it never happens. For the coming year we’re planning on going as Foot Clan ninjas. Odds are it won’t actually happen, but if you see a group of Foot, reeking of alcohol, say hi.

  4. Cosplay is like Halloween it is another event where women can dress sexier or sluttier than they normally would.

  5. not to mention all the time and money spent on the outfits…its a serious passion. More power to you. Just don’t hit me with your plastic swords or wings or whatever!

    Josh should run for some sort of comics political office. Like a step above a Foursquare Mayor. Like Mayor McCheese….but y’know…of comics. Bringing the fandom together…

  6. Are you talking about specifically making fun of Cosplayers to their faces or in the public? Or like snickering with your friends behind their backs? Because one is lame and the other is harmless. I’m sure Cosplayers harmlessly find their jollies at the expense of others in their own cliques… at I hope they do.

  7. Here’s my thing with cos-players…. It’s a free country and I’d defend to the death their right to do it. BUT, I think they do the comic hobby a tremendous disservice because the public image of comics is (a) The Comic Guy from the Simpsons, (b) those dorky guys on The Big Bang Theory and (c) some fat dude dressed up as Slave Leia. That’s just not helpful if we’d like to bring more people into our hobby.

    Again…it’s a free country and people can engage in whatever behavior they want, but I’d love it if male cosplay was reduced to almost nothing and we instituted a BMI-based system for allowing female cosplay.

  8. God bless ’em, says I. They always put a smile on my face.

  9. I’m sorry Josh, I have to respectfully disagree. As in any group there are different levels of lameness….

    Remember that fuck-nut that said God was coming back on April 21 2011 and the world was gonna end? Well do you think the majority of Christians supported that crazy shit-head? As Will Smith once said, “Oh hell nah.” BUT, these loud-mouthed zealots are the people that get the most attention and as a result, all motherfucking Christians get grouped in together with them. Thus giving the impression that they all believe this shit.

    (am I breaking the terms of agreement here? )

    Anywho, my point is, these people that dress in costumes at conventions are weirdos and unfortunately are the people that represent us comic book fans. Thanks a lot dorks.

    Now if you will excuse me I have to go back to typing up my 10 page reply on who I think would win a fight between Batman and Wolverine.

    fucking Batman. duh

  10. If I may steal a line from the great Garth Algar, the lady cosplayers “make me feel kinda funny, like when I used to climb the rope in gym class.”

  11. I could go on a long, rant or I could just say thank you …

    So yeah, thanks.

  12. I agree with everything you say here Josh. I’ve never been to a con, but in fact I do feel a little bad about the things I’ve thought about some of the cosplayers, and maybe a few things I’ve said. I do remember some instances of video shot during the con shows that feels to me like it was shot for laughs. (I remember shots of storm troopers doing every day things, I found it hilarious) Do you regret those types of shots at all? How do you view it?

    • That’s a good and fair question.

      We always used to shoot for shots of people in costume doing everyday things for our cold opens. I honestly don’t think we were making fun of the people in costumes as much as we thought it was funny to see stormtroopers juxtaposed in the real world doing things like eating lunch. That’s how I always saw it. I guess more the characters than the people. But if I have to take a hit on that, I’ll cop to it.

    • Those shots of cosplayers doing mundane things aren’t making fun of them. They are just people in costume doing mundane things.

    • I think the last line is my favorite. I have a great deal of respect for cosplayers, in fact I love them. Cons would be way less fun without them. I actually feel bad for those who get their man-panties in a ruffle because cosplayers are “ruining their cred”: How little self-esteem do you have if the actions of a bunch of people you don’t know, have no connection to you whatsoever and only share the same general space a few times a year can totally destroy your sense of self-worth? I suggest those folks get a smidge of therapy and learn how to love themselves. And maybe get some hugs (if anyone is willing to hugs those mirthless bastards).

    • Josh I agree about the cold open. I think cosplay is awesome, never done it, but the spirit cosplayers bring to a show is great, and there is nothing better than seeing a kid at a show get so excited to see chewy walking down the aisle. That being said I always get a chuckle about the cosplayers in the cold opens but never felt I was laughing at the cosplayers but at the mundane task these characters are engaging in. It’s a similar gag to spidey eating Chinese take out with his mask pulled up on the side of a building. The humor is all about the juxtaposition, not laughing at the people.

    • Yeah, and the more I think of its especially funny with storm troopers since they look identical to the movie versions. Thanks for your answers, and great article.

    • There is nothing funnier than a Stormtrooper doing everyday things. There just isn’t.

    • One of the best things I’ve ever seen at a con was a bunch of Stormtroopers in line at a Steak n Shake.

  13. When does cosplay cross over into fetish?

    Hey, somebody had to ask!

  14. This is interesting. To be honest, I never knew that other comic fans and con-attendees felt this way about folks who dress up. That’s… about the lamest thing I can imagine. People like what they like, and if you read comics and attend cons, well, you’re expressing your enjoyment of your hobby too. It’s presicely the same thing. Making fun of them is just a way to make yourself feel cool, and that makes you a d-bag.

    On that subject, why are we (the comics community) still obsessed with being cool, or more specifically, not being nerds? Why is nerd a dirty word still? Why are people still mad at the Big Bang Theory for “making us look bad?” Who the hell cares how we look? So what if we’re nerds? Just read your books, wear what you like, have fun and fucking own it! That’s what makes you cool.

    The More You Know, suckas.

  15. People who cosplay are weirdos who frankly spend too much time and effort dedicated to a fringe hobby which they take way too seriously.

    People who listen to comic podcasts and then go to comic podcast websites to share their opinions with other people who listen to comic podcasts are weirdos who frankly spend too much time and effort dedicated to a fringe hobby which they take way too seriously. ( i wont even start on the people who MAKE comic podcasts for people to listen to and then MAKE comic podcast websites for people to visit…)

    At least the wierdos cosplaying are using their talents and skills to do something more creative than typing (jury is out on those wierdos who make podcasts and websites though…)

  16. Your ascerbic wit makes for interesting articles and lol moments while podcasting but I’m feeling uncomfortable and awkward faced with it’s increasing presence on iFanboy.

  17. Huh. I agree, and it sucks that an article like this has to even be written. I go to SDCC and NYCC, and cosplayers are the highlight…..the only reason I bring a camera.

    My ex-girlfriend was the funnest to go karaoking with. She had the worst voice, but sang with the most pride.

  18. There’s a lot of truth in this article. Best “WWWY” yet!

  19. I’ve cosplayed once outside of a party. I went to a con. As Superboy. And I deeply regretted that I’d opted out of ‘a real costume’. And you know what? My fiance doesnt get into comics alot but she like superheroes. And Star Trek. She is not a geek in the same manner as me. But my point is this: she suggested we dress up next year. Damn if a hot girl Im gonna marry says dress up then screw it I dont give a damn what anyone else thinks. So next year Im going the whole hog. And people will snigger possibly but really…Im going to a comic and film convention. I’ve already accepted one form of social judgement. Having lept that hurdle does anymore really even count.

  20. My only complaint about cosplayers is when they hold up traffic, aside from that? More power to ’em!

  21. Grrr…..DEMO-man…..not devil-man!

  22. I hear ya. Let’s me honest with ourselves. Conventions just wouldn’t be what they are without cosplay.

  23. I love cosplayers, they bring the fun atmosphere to a con. Shame on those who mock them.

    I can’t wait to see the cos players at Austin Comic Con this year.

  24. Since I didn’t see many cosplayers posting replies, I figure I would offer my insight. I have a full Ghostbusters costume that I’ve worn for many Cons and I have to say that while I do get the random odd look from people, most just have fun with it.

    Just last week, I wore it to a Renaissance Festival. I have to admit, I thought I was going to get the kind of treatment that Josh was describing; but I’ve never had so much fun. People stopping in their tracks, slapping their respective others to get their attention and patrons at the far end of the festival running up to me, hugging me, saying ‘Thank you for stopping by, I heard that you were walking around and hoped you’d get to my booth.”

    Being a rather average guy, it’s my way of getting my 15 minutes of fame. Because of that costume, I’ve been in magazines, newspapers, random people’s facebook pages, etc. I find it kind of awesome and encourage anyone that’s ever thought about dressing up to do so. If you put enough thought into it, it’ll bring a smile to someone’s face. And honestly, for me, there’s nothing like the rush of personal accomplishment as someone running up, asking to take a picture with them.

  25. Seriously, I don’t know if I could ever do cosplay for myself but I’ve NEVER had an issue with the ones who can. For myself, I’d have a fairly inexpensive three-day con, and not need to buy any comics there. I’d just bring my camera and take pics of everyone who showed up in costume (and maybe hit up one or two publisher’s sessions). Not to ridicule but because the work they put into their costumes are so cool! A buddy of mine from a local photographer’s group used to get his entire SDCC trip paid for by Wired magazine as long as they could have first publish rights to his photos. He’s got some amazing shots taken every year.

  26. I love the cosplayers. They are having a great time and celebrating something they love. More power t them! the thing that always cracks me up though is that a lot of the people who make fun of the cosplayers for dressing up at a comic convention are the same people who are painting their faces and putting letters on their bare chests in the freezing cold at football games.

  27. I love seeing cosplayers at cons; I think they kinda give off an energy that keeps everybody excited throughout the show.

  28. My approach to cosplay is pretty much the same approach I have to most things: not my thing, but I don’t mind if you do it. An old friend of mine was really into cosplay, and she actually made some pretty cool stuff out of it. I mean, we’re all dorks, is there any reason to not let people express their dorkiness in another way?

  29. I have nothing but the utmost respect for these folks.

    There’s a lot of them who put a LOT of effort into crafting their costumes. It also takes a lot of confidence to don the costumes, regardless of how good or bad they may look. I’ve gotten to know a few of them over the last couple years and I gained even more respect for them, and what they add to the convention experience.

    • I don’t really understand what you mean by respect here. They’re not fighting fires, they’re dressing up in costumes because they like it. It’s not a selfless act in any way.

  30. I’ll take pictures of people in costumes, I’ll tell them if I think the costume is a good idea/well done. But I hate the term cosplay, it seems creepy and fetishistic to me. And while I’m no prude, I tend to want to keep my comic fandom separate from that world.

    • I agree on not liking the term. It sounds like a term invented by adults to do something that kids should probably only do. I’m not bothered about people doing it, doesn’t affect me in any way, but to me it has nothing to do with comics and, in the words of Moz, “says nothing to me about my life”.

  31. If I have any one cause, it’s making fun of cosplayers. I’M FOR IT.

    In seriousness though, I personally can’t equate a lack of shame and self awareness with bravery. Bravery is doing something fully aware of a potentially negative outcome. If there’s one thing I know from knowing quite a few cosplayers, even personally, is that they’re not exactly aware of this, in fact most of them seemed to insist they be respected for the sole reason that they showed up wearing a costume. And god help you if they made the costume themselves, regardless of quality.

    If anything, they shouldn’t be mocked for wearing a costume, they should be mocked just for their personalities.

  32. You mean the proper spelling isn’t “Colour” or “favourite”? Damn!

  33. Neil Gaiman.

  34. IT’s an interesting point Josh made about people dressing up or wearing a persona when they go “out”, either for work or a night on the town.

    This was highlighted perfectly for me one evening when i went to the movies. I think me and some mates were going to the latest Indiana Jones film. We were in line next to people waiting for the latest Sex in the City movie. I distinctly remember thinking that a lot of the ladies in that line with expensive dresses, make-up and freshly styled haircuts were basically cosplaying as whatever character from Sex in the City they most identified with

  35. Ah cos-players, God bless ’em. I can’t say that I’m terribly interested in doing it myself, but they bring an element of fun to con, they make it more exciting for everyone else and far be it from me to look down on someone else’s hobby. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law go to Dragon Con every year in costume (they usually make two or three for that con) and it seems like it’s a nice diversion from their job/PhD program over the course of the year and a nice reason for the two of them to spend some time together. Also, I was totally pumped when she told me she might go as Kitty Pryde next year.

    My only complaint would be the amount of times I’ve needed to dodge a giant sword or something when a person turned around too quickly, but that’s a relatively small complaint.

  36. The world is getting smaller due to shared media and it’s mixing the vernaculars. Also, I worked for several international companies, and spent a lot of time with Brits and Aussies over the course of years.

  37. My wife is not a comic fan, but loves Halloween, and loves the comic movies. So when she asked me if we could go to San Diego for our annual vacation so that she could dress up as a person with powers and walk around with other people doing the same, I was amazed and excited.

    There are fans of the characters who wouldn’t participate or contribute in the comics conventions if dressing up was no longer acceptable, and that should be kept in mind. Are we of the thought that the more truly is merrier, or do we believe that having the smallest grouping of fans possible makes for the best shows?

    To Josh, I must bring up the interesting point that while you feel supportive of the extremes of cosplay, you still advise other fans (in recent video and audio podcasts) not to wear the t-shirts of the comic characters they love to the conventions. This seems pretty contradictory, and understandable at the same time. I just wanted to bring it up to make you re-think your stance on acceptable nerd wear.

    I totally get not wearing a Spidey tee on camera, since the majority of TV and movie characters don’t wear things with designs or logos either. There’s just something asthetically pleasing about plain clothes on people on TV. But at the same time, it makes me a little sad to think that you guys wouldn’t wear a spidey tee to the grocery store, or working around the house on the weekends.

  38. Just read this after clicking the link from the article about Men’s Fitness. Awesome article. I wish I had the balls to step up and do a costume at a convention. I don’t though, I try to blend in as much as possible. But kudos to all those people that do.

    As an aside, I love the Kick Ass cosplayers up there. Those costumes were awesome.